Poor countries addicted to junk food

Food for thought: Obesity has led to four million early deaths since 1980.

Is cheap food doing more harm than good? Hunger: a problem for many in poorer countries. Processed food is cheap and filling but also unhealthy. Poor countries have a new issue — obesity.

What’s happening

The world is getting fatter. Journalists from The New York Times revealed last week that there are now more obese people in the world than underweight.

The biggest increase has been in developing countries, where the number of overweight and obese adults tripled between 1980 and 2008. Who is to blame?

Find out more

Rich companies like Nestlé, which makes Milkybars, Rolos and Cheerios, have started to sell their products in poorer countries. This means that people in places like Brazil are eating lots of processed food.

Celene da Silva can now always afford to feed her family. “For the first time in my life, I feel a sense of hope and independence,” she says.

But scientists have shown that many processed foods contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar. This can lead to all sorts of illnesses.

The United Nations’ annual food report was released last week and promised to tackle obesity.

Still, the report also showed that 11% of the world’s population is hungry. Bringing in cheap food could solve this. But if it also makes people obese, is it worth it?

Some say…

“Absolutely,” argue some. It is much better for people to be overweight than dying of starvation. There is no time to worry about obesity when so many people are hungry. Almost everyone in Brazil now has enough to eat, thanks to processed food. Big companies have the power to save millions of lives. Like it or not, cheap food is the future.

Others think…

“There must be a better way,” reply others. Big companies do not care about the public's health. They are only interested in making money. Unhealthy food has simply replaced the problem of hunger with the problem of obesity. This will lead to many people suffering from awful health issues in the future. Junk food is not the answer.

You Decide

  1. Has cheap food created more problems than it has solved?


  1. Design a poster to put up around your school which tells people how to live healthily. What should people eat? How much should they eat? How many times a week should they exercise? Include anything else that you can think of.

Some People Say...

“Processed foods are essential in today’s world.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Obese people carry too much fat. This can lead to serious health problems.
Developing countries
Poorer countries without a strong infrastructure (ie, transport, schools, homes, etc). People living in a developing country do not usually have a good quality of life and do not earn very much money.
Processed food
Whenever food is altered from its raw state, it is “processed”. An example is a chicken nugget — though originally pure chicken — salt, sugar, flavourings and other chemicals are added which change it from its original state. This lowers the price so it is cheap but unhealthy.
Freedom from the control of others.
United Nations
Known as the UN, an organisation set up in 1945 to make the world a more peaceful, safe place.
Such poor access to food that people may die of hunger.


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